Canberra Raiders go looking for heart at spiritual Seiffert

Canberra Raiders go looking for heart at spiritual Seiffert

They have resembled a park football team for the past two matches, and so on Wednesday night the Canberra Raiders were forced to train like one.

The Raiders went back to basics by rescheduling training and holding a private opposed session at the club's spiritual home, Queanbeyan's Seiffert Oval, against local Canberra Raiders Cup team Queanbeyan Blues.

Raiders captain Terry Campese trains at Seiffert Oval on Wednesday night.

Raiders captain Terry Campese trains at Seiffert Oval on Wednesday night.

Photo: Melissa Adams

Paint is chipping and fading from the ageing scoreboard at Seiffert Oval, where the Raiders played their formative years from 1982-89, but it is still not as battered as Raiders scoreboards of recent times.

Having conceded 18 tries and 108 points in the past two games, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart marched his extended 21-man squad across the ACT border to fight for their positions before Sunday's game, against Penrith at Canberra Stadium.

The Raiders dropped winger Bill Tupou and centre Matt Allwood after last weekend's 54-12 loss to the Warriors and have made several more positional changes, most notably abandoning the experimental halves combination of Jack Wighton and Terry Campese.


But asked about this session, Raiders assistant coach Dean Pay said all players were on notice.

"I think the whole squad's on their toes at the moment after the last couple of weeks, and so they should be," Pay said. "We've had a few changes this week, and it was due."

So whether it was a change of scenery, a throwback to Raiders history or even a glimpse at the future if a few players do not lift their games, the Raiders trained at a dimly lit ground fit for local footy.

There were no extra surprises from the extended Raiders squad picked on Tuesday. Skipper Campese returned to his more familiar position of five-eighth and on the left side of the field, inside centre Jarrod Croker and Mosese Pangai, a giant winger preparing to make his Canberra debut.

Josh McCrone, who has tried to convert to a hooker, reverted to his regular position at halfback on the right side of the field, inside Wighton and winger Reece Robinson.

There was also no surprise that defence was the focus of the session. The Queanbeyan Blues were given the ball for 20 minutes straight to start the opposed session, continually testing the Raiders' try line defence.

Set after set, it was all analysed by Stuart, standing behind his defensive line with hands on his knees, and the Raiders staff member with the video camera on the top rung of a stepladder pitched behind the in-goal area.

Some in the Queanbeyan Blues squad wore hoodies, baseball caps or tracksuits pants, but they played their part. The local squad includes retired Raiders Marc Herbert and Trevor Thurling, and is coached by former Raiders skipper Simon Woolford.

"It's just someone different we want to train against," Pay said. "They don't know our calls, they don't know our plays. It's good to run against someone else we're not used to training against every day of the week.

"We have to get back to doing our basics really well – kicking and chasing and hanging on to the footy."

Put more simply, the Raiders needed to find some heart, lacking in their past two performances. Fans can only hope they found it at Seiffert.

Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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